It's not just the spoonful of sugar that we stir into our coffee, or the sugar that is in the occasional restaurant dessert, that affects our bodies. Sugar is present in many of the processed foods we eat, from meat to tomato sauce. So much so, in fact, that the average American consumes over one pound of sugar each week. There is no dietary need for sugar in the diet, but excessive amounts have undesirable consequences.
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Sugar eaten in excess causes a natural process called glycation to kick into overdrive. Sugar in the bloodstream attaches to protein to form harmful molecules, advanced glycogen end products, or AGEs, that damage collagen and elastin. Collagen and elastin are responsible for keeping skin firm. Also, excess sugar affects the type of collagen in the skin. It can make stable forms of collagen more fragile, leaving the skin less supple. AGEs neutralise antioxidant enzymes, causing skin to lose its natural protection against the sun. Diabetics whose blood sugar is poorly controlled can have up to 50 times more AGEs in their skin than those without the disease; they can also show premature signs of ageing.
Heart Disease and High Blood Pressure
Triglycerides in the blood can indirectly raise cholesterol levels. Elevated cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease. Eating too much sugar increases triglycerides, leading some cardiologists and researchers to draw a link between sugar and heart deaths. Some even believe that sugar is as much to blame for hypertension (high blood pressure) as salt. In 2010, researchers found that reducing sugar-sweetened beverages significantly reduces blood pressure. Researchers are not yet sure why this occurs.
Feeding Pancreatic Cancer
All sugars are not created equal. It's been known since 1923 that sugar grows tumorous cells more aggressively than normal cells. But, a 2010 study in Cancer Research challenged the notion that the two sugars, glucose and fructose, are the same. Findings from this study, however, show that tumour cells thrive on glucose, but they proliferate on fructose. The use of high fructose corn syrup has increased 1,000 per cent between 1970 and 1990. Fructose is fruit sugar; however, when you eat the whole fruit, you get fibre and bulk that limits how much you can eat and how quickly it is absorbed into the bloodstream.
Babies given too much sugar at an early age begin to form preferences for overly sweet foods. These early habits may cause children to reject more nutritious choices and, instead, satiate themselves with empty calories from sugar. Children do not need added sugar in their diets. Excess sugar leads to hormonal surges that can cause insulin resistance, weight gain and obesity.
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- Prevention; Blood Sugar Can be Anyone's Problem; Sari N. Harrar
- Prevention; Face Facts: Too Much Sugar Can Cause Wrinkles; Karyn Repinski
- "American Fitness"; Are You Sugar Smart: Frances Sheridan Goulart; March-April 1991
- American Heart Association; Reducing Consumption of Sugar Sweetened Beverages is Associated with Reduced Blood Pressure; March 2010
- Science Daily; Does Sugar Feed Cancer;
- Cancer Cells Slurp Up Fructose, U.S. Study Finds; August 2010